November 18, 2014

A taste of the French Quarter...

Good morning!  A week ago we were strolling through the French Quarter and enjoying the sights, sounds and in particular the TASTE of New Orleans. This week we are back home in Wisconsin, where the sights and sounds are a little different.  Instead of blues, I have Barry Manilow playing on my kitchen CD player:

And instead of lush green balconies

this is the view from my front door:

No palm trees in Wisconsin, 


 only snow covered spirea...

But while I can't recreate the warmth and sunshine and joie de vivre that we so enjoyed last week, there are a few things I can attempt to re-capture.  I am, at heart, a Southern girl when it comes to my food preferences, and I was delighted to find this towel in the Quarter, which now proudly hangs on my kitchen island:

Did someone say simmerin' grits??!  

and sizzlin' bacon?!

Praline bacon (baked with a topping of brown sugar and pecans)
Recipe from a great New Orleans cookbook I found in the Quarter (more on that discovery in another post!)

So I turned a lazy (and cold) Sunday morning into my own little Cafe' du Monde and served up a little Louisiana flavor right in my own kitchen.   Besides the grits and bacon, orange juice, coffee and scrambled eggs, I tried my hand at French beignets. We sampled them last week and I brought home a mix to give them a try.  
Cafe' du Monde

Cafe' a la Scales

And here are my beignets...not a bad first attempt!  I'm really glad my husband does the dishes, though, as sputtering grease seemed to land everywhere!!

Cafe du Monde

A plate of small hot beignets
coated in a snow squall
of light powdered sugar

a dense cup of oh so hot
coffee with chicory

at 3:00am, near Jackson Square

Jazz and spice in the air
Before last call,
in the Big Easy

--Raymond Foss, 2005

Happy Tuesday!

November 13, 2014

Road trip!

Two cars, eight people, sixteen hours and two days down, and sixteen hours in ONE day coming home!  My husband and I set our new all-time record for most hours driving last weekend, but it was surely worth it!  We headed south to the Big Easy, the city of cafe au lait and beignets, crawfish and creole cuisine, gumbo and grits.  South...where the air was redolent with the smell of the mighty Mississippi mingling with fried calas (rice) cakes and roses still blooming in the French Quarter.


We were delighted to attend our nephew's wedding and bask in the warmth of the sunshine and the happiness of being surrounded by loved ones.  As Martha Stewart would say...a wedding---it's a good thing!  We also had free time to wander the French Quarter and make new memories.  This poem by Vince Vance, penned in 2011, describes the essence of what we discovered on a lovely Sunday morning stroll through the Quarter:

I Am New Orleans 

by Vince Vance
        ...upon the 125th Anniversary of the Monteleone Hotel, the heart of New Orleans

I'm American, European and African... all by chance
I'm Satchmo, Jumbo, Fountain, Fats, 'Fess and Vince Vance
I'm the roux in your gumbo; I'm the rice in your beans
I'm a levee that will never break; I am New Orleans.

My blood is the River, my heart is the Quarter
I'm a corrupt politician; a slave that was martyred
A girl who lost her way and a Bourbon Street Queen
A Streetcar Named Desire; I am New Orleans.

I'm praying in the Cathedral; I'm living in sin
I never sleep from the bustle or the fear I live in
I smell like French Bread; my snowball's nectar cream
In a city that care forgot; I am New Orleans.

I'm stronger from lies; I'm bigger than The Dome
I'm the Saints; I'm the sinners; I am a place called Home
I'm sweating in December; I'm purple, gold and green
I'm Catholic and I'm voodoo; I am New Orleans.

I'm Dixieland Jazz; I'm Redfish Court-Bouillon
I'm the Carousel Lounge, the Knights of Babylon
"Throw me something. Mister!" Yeah, I hear y'all scream
But this parade never ends; I am New Orleans.

I'm coffee and beignets, a ferry to Old Algiers
I'm the Best Bank, Metry, St. Bernard, I drink Abita Beer
I'm a Jambalaya of People seasoned with moonbeams
I'm Mardi Gras on Canal Street; I am New Orleans.

I was sold by the French and saved by Ole Hickory
There's water all around me, but I can never come clean
I'm eight feet below sea level and I'm slipping out to sea
Katrina changed me forever, but I am still New Orleans.

They tried to call me Chocolate City; it's okay we're white and black
You can drench me with oil but I'm always coming back
I'm the healer Dr. Mary and all of Blaine Kern's dreams
I'm an old hotel called Monteleone; I am New Orleans.

November 4, 2014

I had a mother who read to me...

Oh my goodness!  I guess I am learning the hard way that a habit that bites the dust is hard to re-establish!  When I first started my blog I decided I would post every week day and take the weekends off, which worked really great for quite a while.  Then...I had a grandchild on the way (baby blankets! knitted baby hats! baby showers!) and a daughter getting married (crafts! crafts! crafts!!!!!) and I had to choose between crafting/planning/organizing/executing or blogging on a regular schedule.  But coming back from a writing hiatus right before the holidays is making it difficult to stick to a five times a week writing schedule, so for now you can plan on my posting a new blog every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  Hopefully that will give me time to give you a few peeks on all the crazy, happy times I've had the last few months and still allow me to put some ho-ho-ho into my holiday preparations!  

My grandmother Beulah Badger and four of her six children.  My mother is on the right.

Up first?  A project I've been wanting to show you for a long time, but getting all the pictures took longer than expected!  A former colleague of mine gave me such an unexpected, memorable and thoughtful gift year before last...he and his father built a Little Free Library for me.  I had wanted to dedicate one to my mother for a long time, but my woodworking skills are beginner level and it was just too much of a project for me to handle.  I was so touched and grateful for this gift.  Thank you, Jeff and Russell!!  I finally got it assembled and painted and was able to present it to my mom when she was here for her birthday.

I had a hard time deciding how to finish the exterior--so many choices!  But when I came across these durable, exterior travel posters I knew I had found the perfect finishing touch, representing a few of the book series that my family loves.  First up, Narnia.  I have wonderful memories of reading this entire series to my younger siblings during a long and uncomfortably hot station wagon trek from South Dakota to Washington state.  We dreamed of the "endless winter" and Edmund's Turkish delights while we valiantly tried to keep our hot, sweaty bodies from touching each other!  Thank you, C.S. Lewis, for amazing tales of courage and faith that kept us enthralled for 1,365 miles (but who's counting?).

I smile every time I remember my family's use of six bookmarks and three copies of the same book, with six eager readers fighting over their turn to read the latest Harry Potter installment!  And the children weren't the only ones anxious to check in on Harry, Hermione, Ron and all the professors! My husband and I were just as excited to have an imaginary butterbeer at the Hog's Head Tavern!

And now that we are all "grown up" (alas) we take our fantasy in more adult fashion.  But there are still enough dragons and magic and sword craft and tales of derring-go to keep us fascinated as we traverse the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros in George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones epic series:

A peek inside shows you today's offerings--it has become so popular that books change daily!  It warms my heart to see cars pull up to swap books, walkers slow down and browse, and kids on their way to school peek inside to see what might attract their attention:

And all due to a grandmother who could recite poetry at the drop of a hat and a mother who instilled a deep love of reading and left me with a life long love of the printed word.  As Anne (with an "e") would say, my mother and I are kindred spirits when it comes to our love of books!

So of course today there is only one poem I could possibly choose.  I love you, Mom, and thank you thank you thank you for sharing your passion for books with me!